Chillul Tefila Bifarhesia, as well as halachicly challenged verbiage and dress, are external manifestations of a critical lack of personal yiras shomayim which has lethal consequences.
I recently had the good fortune to be able to attend a musical in New York City that was entirely in Yiddish, a presentation of the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene. The play, Gimpel Tam, is based on the short story, Gimpel The Fool by the late Isaac Bashevis Singer.
Because my parents, a”h, Polish Holocaust survivors, spoke Yiddish at home, I pretty much am able to understand conversational Yiddish – if not speak it as easily. However I am convinced that when it comes to expressing one’s feelings or opinions about anything under the sun, Yiddish is one of the best languages to do it in. Yiddish terminology is in a class of its own in getting the message across. Just the word “oy,” for example, can capture and summarize what in any other language would take quite a few.
And indeed, the character of Gimpel Tam elicited a pained oy from me – for he is a person that one can greatly admire yet despise at the same time. A thoroughly gentle soul, you can’t help but be impressed by his honesty and his ability to trust his fellow man – a trait that he naturally transposes on everyone else. Just like a liar automatically thinks he is being lied to when someone tells him something – so too Gimpel assumes everyone is honest and truthful – because he is.
Thus when the townspeople tell him to run out of his bakery – that Moshiach has come and his dead parents are looking for him, he drops what he is doing and runs out. At first, Gimpel is skeptical – he has been the butt of many previous jokes, but again – as he has always done – he takes them at their word. According to his way of thinking, theymust be telling the truth – for why would they deliberate lie or mislead him? Of course, the townspeople could be hallucinating, but – he tells himself – “Can the whole town be crazy?”
Gimpel soon finds himself in a situation with serious consequences; the local shadchan wants to arrange a match for him with a woman of ill repute. Gimpel, who is very religious, expresses his shock at the matchmaker for even thinking of setting him up with Elke, who has an out of wedlock son. He in turn reprimands Gimpel for doubting his good intentions, telling Gimpel he is mistaken, that the little boy is Elke’s brother, and they are orphans.
Gimpel believes him because if the shadchan says that it is so – then it is. Why would he lie to him?
In a later scene, Gimpel accuses Elke of being unfaithful, for with his own eyes he saw her with another man. She lashes out at him, chiding him for confusing a shadow with a human being. The pious Gimpel accepts her version of what he knows he saw. He is honest and so she must be.
However, I believe there is another more worrisome reason for his denial; it is so much easier to believe lies than have to deal with an unpleasant reality. Closing one’s eyes to a difficult truth takes so much less effort. Denying a horrific reality means there is no need to do something about it – which often entails much misirat nefesh (backbreaking or soul-wrenching endeavors).
And so Gimpel lives his life believing everyone’s tales, seeing only good or, sensing evil, deliberately “sticking his head in the sand.”
On one hand, giving people the benefit of the doubt is a very noble trait. In fact, we are told of the sage, Rav Zushya who only saw the positive in people. It is said that he once saw a Jew oiling the wheel of his wagon while he davened. Instead of chiding him for working while praying, Rav Zushya looked upward to Heaven and said to G‑d,” Look how wonderful Your children are. Even when they work, they daven to you!”
Yet denying reality, and instead justifying someone’s actions, can result in very dire consequences. Refusing to acknowledge the “facts on the ground,” deliberately “spinning” a situation staring you in the face and falsely re-interpreting the obvious, can be self-destructive and fatal.
On a personal level, for example, a woman who is frequently battered by her spouse but stays with him because she accepts his version of “the truth” – “she had it coming,” “it’s her fault,”is doing a “Gimpel” and allowing herself to be destroyed emotionally, spiritually and often physically.
Not only individuals can act like the good-hearted, trusting but ultimately foolish Gimpel. A nation that stares its enemies in the face but sees “friends” and “peace partners” despite their repeated rhetoric and actions to the contrary; a people that eagerly eats the blatant lies and falsehoods fed to them time after time – despite the bitter pills of carnage they have had to swallow; a country that emulates the noble, but extremely foolish thinking of Gimpel Tam – risks becoming a global joke, at best, a tragic footnote in history – at worst.
Gimpel Tam opens Thursday, December 4 at 8:00 p.m., and plays a limited engagement through Sunday, December 28, at The JCC in Manhattan, 334 Amsterdam Avenue. Written and directed by Moshe Yassur, score by Radu Captari, and musical direction by Zalmen Mlotek. Tickets are currently on sale by phone at 800-595-4849 or online at www.folksbiene.org.
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Leah Katz, a TeenZone camper at Oorah’s TheZone summer camp and an 11th grader at Midwood High School, read her winning essay about how TheZone changed her views on Judaism at the Jewish Heritage Awards Ceremony held at Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes’s office in April. The purpose of the Jewish Heritage Essay Contest is to acquaint public school students with Jewish history and customs and to help foster a deeper understanding of Jewish culture. The contest is open to students of all ethnic and religious backgrounds. Leah’s essay is reproduced in full below.
Moshe Sharett, the head of the Jewish Agency’s Political Department, visited Egypt in 1945. In Cairo he met a most remarkable young woman, a beautiful journalist who was the darling of Egyptian high society – from high-ranking military brass, to culture icons and Muslim sheikhs, to the court of King Faruk.
The two proceeded to talk about everyday things and surprisingly her mother-in-law did not find anything else to criticize. This occurred a few more times, with my client changing the topic every time by complimenting her mother-in-law or mentioning something positive about her.
There is always a lot of confusion surrounding sensory processing disorder – mainly because there are many different diagnoses that fall under the catch-all phrase sensory processing disorder (SPD). Among them are three specific subcategories:
The doctor had warned us that even if we did everything right and followed the protocol after the follicle was of the right size, there was no guarantee of success. Fertilization still had to occur, and just like couples do not necessarily become pregnant every month, we had no way to know if we were actually expecting for two full weeks.
The next chapter of the award-winning novel.
Jewish Press columnist Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis, founder and president of Hineni, the international Torah outreach organization, recently addressed an overflowing audience at the Beth Jacob Congregation of Irvine in southern California. Rebbetzin Jungreis’s address theme, “Making a Good Relationship Magical,” was apropos for the evening’s main mission: raising funds for the Irvine community’s mikveh.
You have probably been planning your marriage since you were about three. Let’s fast-forward to a big milestone– your twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. (Don’t worry, you don’t look a day over twenty one!) Now, would you appreciate your husband buying you a dozen roses that some florist recommended?
As I mentioned in my earlier articles about our family trip to Israel, our night flight went pretty smooth, thanks to my children’s willingness to sleep throughout the flight. I, on the other hand, didn’t sleep a wink and I wasn’t feeling too great by the time we landed. But we were finally in Israel, and just being in the beautifully renovated Ben Gurion airport and hearing all the Hebrew around us was exciting enough.
While all the flowers that grace your Shavuos table will surely be a delight to your eye, these will be a delight for your palette as well. Create them at any level, simple or sophisticated; any way you make them they’re sure to be a sensation.
Welcome back to “You’re Asking Me?” where we attempt to answer questions sent in by people who fortunately have fake names, so they won’t be embarrassed. I don’t know how they got through school, though.
Speechless wonder is the reaction to the beautiful vision seen though the Arch of the Keshet Cave at the Adamit Park in the Galilee. One of the most amazing natural wonders in Eretz Yisrael, the Me’arat Hakeshet — also known as the Rainbow Cave or Arch Cave — can be found up against the Israel-Lebanon border just a few kilometers from Rosh Hanikra and the sparkling blue Mediterranean Sea. It is situated amid the wild scenery on the cliffs of Nachal Betzet and Nachal Namer, on the Adamit Ridge.
One of the subjects I was taught as a young child in school was Tefillah. Since we spoke only Ivrit during our Limudei Kodesh and secular Hebrew studies – literature, creative writing and Jewish history – we pretty much understood the words we were davening.
Shortly before Pesach, I received a rather agitated call from a long time reader of The Jewish Press who pleaded with me to write a column regarding what she insisted was the unwarranted high cost of Pesach food – in particular shmurah matzah – and how hard it was for young families to pay what she felt were over-inflated prices in order to keep strictly kosher.
The price of deliberate obliviousness is very high – emotionally, physically, socially, and financially.
How is it possible that a person of seemingly normal intelligence (nowhere does it say he is simple) not have the ability to ask a question – to not react and enquire as to the why of the hustle and bustle around him?
It was one of those cold, rain-soaked evenings – the kind that make you look forward to a hot drink, a good book and a soft couch to curl up on. With those happy thoughts in mind, I proceeded to cross to the other side of the street.
The other day I was shopping at a large supermarket and happened to go down the frozen foods aisle, past the endless freezers containing every imaginable flavor, shape and size of ice cream. I rarely buy. Rather I am like a tourist in a museum – gawking at wondrous objects that I know I can’t take home with me.
He stood his ground despite the intense pressure to do what everyone else was doing. His integrity was more important to him than “fitting in.”
Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/beware-of-becoming-gimpel-the-fool/2008/12/03/
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